The battle between supporters and opponents of Sun TV News -- the Fox News style channel headed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's former communications director Kory Teneycke -- reached new heights when members of the ‘Fox News North' team took issue with a growing online petition urging the CRTC to reject Quebecor's (QMI) request to "make it mandatory for cable and satellite networks to provide access to the channel ‘for a maximum period of three years to effectively expose and promote its programming to viewers across Canada'."
In an article entitled Anti-Sun TV News campaign in U.S., Sun Media (QMI)'s Brian Lilley alleges the petition is the work of "a group of left-wing Americans supporting interests in Canada that don't want to see competition in news broadcasting ... backed by MoveOn.org a lobby group that has taken millions of dollars from currency speculator George Soros."
What followed is known as the "saga of the Great Sun TV Petition," in which Teneycke, fellow Sun Media (QMI) personality Ezra Levant, and Conservative blogger/activist and founder of the BloggingTories.ca Stephen Taylor, took to twitter to express their ‘outrage,' as ‘someone' spammed the petition with the names of journalists, actors, and fictional characters, and simultaneously penned an editorial about "why Canada needs Sun TV News."
In their co-ordinated effort, Teneycke, Levant and Taylor not only attacked Avaaz.org -- a global online advocacy community whose co-founder and Executive Director, Ricken Patel, happens to be Canadian -- as a foreign operation, but specifically, and repeatedly, refer to George Soros -- a progressive philanthropist who is despised by Right Wing America.
By connecting Soros to the Avaaz petition, Lilley, Levant, Taylor, and Tenycke aim to stoke fear in their followers who, more often than not, are avid consumers of extreme Right Wing media such as Fox News, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, Andrew Breitbart (BigGovernment.com), Pamela Gellar (AtlasShrugs.com), WorldNetDaily.com, and Judi McLeod (Canadafreepress.com).
Soros can be found at the centre of nearly every conspiracy concocted by the aforementioned, widely discredited media sources, who've alleged:
"Soros is a Nazi Collaborator"
"Move over, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. There's a new kid on the block: Soros"
"Obama-Soros Blueprint For US Surrender To Islam"
"Soros' New World Order"
"Soros is Obama's Secret Boss"
"The Oil Spill Was An Obama-Soros Act Of War Against The United States"
"Soros Is The Anti-Christ"
"Soros is The Biggest Enemy Of Freedom"
"Soros And Obama: Crime Inc."
As if on cue, Levant -- who spent the summer of 1994 in Washington, D.C., in an internship arranged by the right-wing Charles G. Koch Foundation Summer Fellow Program -- used his Sunday Sun column to import the ‘Soros is scary' propaganda from his conspiracy theorist counterparts in the U.S.
In his piece Moral hollowness at work, Levant claims Soros, a Hungarian Jew born in 1930, survived the holocaust by ‘collaborating with the Nazis.'
"First he worked for the Judenrat," writes Levant. "That was the Jewish council set up by the Nazis to do their dirty work for them. Instead of the Nazis rounding up Jews every day for the trains, they delegated that murderous task to Jews who were willing to do it to survive another day at the expense of their neighbours."
This oft repeated ‘nazi collaborator' smear is taken from the pages of The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Sixties Radicals Seized Control of the Democratic Party, a thoroughly discredited book written by right-wing pundits David Horowitz and Richard Poe.
Levant's fictitious claim that Soros "collaborated with the nazis" and "worked for the Judenrat," is based wholly on unsourced allegations, originating in The Shadow Party, and echoed by right-wing pundits.
Moving on, Levant writes:
"(Soros' father) hatched a better plan for his son. He bribed a non-Jewish official at the agriculture ministry to let (Soros) live with him. (Soros) helped the official confiscate property from Jews.
By collaborating with the Nazis, (Soros) survived the Holocaust. He turned on other Jews to spare himself.
How does Soros feel about what he did as a teenager? Has it kept him up at night?
Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes asked him that. Was it difficult? ‘Not at all,' Soros answered.
‘No feeling of guilt?' asked Kroft. ‘No,' said Soros. ‘There was no sense that I shouldn't be there. If I wasn't doing it, somebody else would be taking it away anyhow. Whether I was there or not. So I had no sense of guilt.'
A Nazi would steal the Jews' property anyways. So why not him?"
The assertion that Soros confiscated property of other Jews -- including the imaginary interview Levant creates by cropping and rearranging portions of the actual 60 Minutes Soros interview -- was debunked years ago, when the 60 Minutes interview was first selectively edited by conservative columnist Martin Peretz.
As evidenced by the unedited portion of the interview, the conversation between Kroft and Soros bears little semblance to the version scribed by Levant:
Kroft: You're a Hungarian Jew ...
Kroft: ... who escaped the Holocaust ...
Kroft: ... by posing as a Christian.
Kroft: And you watched lots of people get shipped off to the death camps.
Soros: Right. I was 14 years old. And I would say that that's when my character was made.
Kroft: In what way?
Soros: That one should think ahead. One should understand that -- and anticipate events and when, when one is threatened. It was a tremendous threat of evil. I mean, it was a -- a very personal threat of evil.
KROFT: My understanding is that you went out with this protector of yours who swore that you were his adopted godson.
SOROS: Yes. Yes.
KROFT: Went out, in fact, and helped in the confiscation of property from the Jews.
SOROS: Yes. That's right. Yes.
Kroft: I mean, that's -- that sounds like an experience that would send lots of people to the psychiatric couch for many, many years. Was it difficult?
Soros: Not, not at all. Not at all. Maybe as a child you don't ... you don't see the connection. But it was -- it created no -- no problem at all.
Kroft: No feeling of guilt?
Kroft: For example, that, 'I'm Jewish, and here I am, watching these people go. I could just as easily be these, I should be there.' None of that?
Soros: Well, of course, ... I could be on the other side or I could be the one from whom the thing is being taken away. But there was no sense that I shouldn't be there, because that was -- well, actually, in a funny way, it's just like in the markets -- that is I weren't there -- of course, I wasn't doing it, but somebody else would - would -- would be taking it away anyhow. And it was the -- whether I was there or not, I was only a spectator, the property was being taken away. So the -- I had no role in taking away that property. So I had no sense of guilt.
As they say, context is everything.
Soros had ‘no feeling of guilt' because the property was going to be taken whether he was standing by watching, pretending to be the Christian Godson of an employee of Hungary's Ministry of Agriculture, or whether he was among the Jews apprehended by the Nazis.
He did not, himself, take any property, nor did he condone it. He was an adolescent who watched it happen; who was powerless in the face of certain death; who could have done nothing to stop what he witnessed.
The remainder of Levant's article plays out in the same fashion; inaccurate claims, misattributed quotes, baseless allegations.
Borrowing again from the Right Wing blogosphere, Levant claims "(Soros) called the world's financial crisis ‘the culmination of my life's work'."
Had Levant bothered to locate the original source of this claim, he'd have learned the entire article has since been pulled, and replaced with a statement acknowledging that Soros "in fact made no such comment."
The article reaches an ultimate low, however, when Levant invokes Soros' dead mother, stating "he is a man who boasted he offered to help his mother commit suicide. Apparently he didn't see enough death in Hungary."
This repulsive attack reveals far more about Levant than it does Soros; Especially given that, in full context, Soros in no way ‘boasts' about offering to help his mother end her life.
In 1994 at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, Soros reflected on the experience of dying and bereavement in America while endorsing the Oregon Death With Dignity Act.
In his address, Soros explained how he "chose the problem of dying" as an area promote a better understanding "because of some very personal experiences in connection with the death of my parents, both of whom I was very devoted to and loved dearly."
"My father died at home in 1963. He was terminally ill. Although he agreed to an operation, he didn't particularly want to survive it because he was afraid that the combination of the illness and the operation would invade and destroy his autonomy as a human being. Unfortunately, that in fact is what happened. After the operation he had very little time left. I'm afraid I kind of wrote him off at that point. I was there when he died, yet I let him die alone. I could see him, but I wasn't at his bedside. The day after he died I went into the office. I didn't talk about my fathers death. So I kind of denied his dying, I certainly didn't participate in it. Afterwards, I read Kubler-Ross and learned that I might have maintained contact with him if I tried. Had I read Kubler-Ross earlier I would have probably held his hand, because I did love him. I just didn't know that it might make a difference. I forgave myself because I did not know any better
My mothers death was more recent. She had joined the Hemlock Society and had at hand a means of doing away with herself. I asked her if she needed my help; I offered it, although I wasn't particularly keen to do it. But I would have helped her because I felt that I owed it to her. At the point of decision, however, she did not want to take her own life, and I'm glad she didn't. Her decision gave the family a chance to rally around and be there as she prepared to die. And this time we did maintain good contact right to the end."
Hooray for context.
Before ending this piece of fiction disguised as an article, Levant labels Soros as a "sociopath" who "has turned his attention to Canada" using "one of his front groups, called Avaaz" to petition the CRTC to reject "Sun Media's license for a TV news channel."
"The petition is a fraud!" Levant rages. "And the whole campaign is run out of New York."
Cue the scary music for Levant's grand finale:
"Do you think Soros should determine what you can watch on TV? Do you think that decision should be made in New York? Is our freedom of speech just another trinket for him to buy and sell? Hasn't Soros silenced enough voices in his life?"
Really, Ezra? "Hasn't Soros silenced enough voices in his life?" Classy.
But I digress.
As stated earlier, Avaaz is a global operation. Launched in 2007 with the intent to "organize citizens everywhere to help close the gap between the world we have and the world most people want," Avaaz "has grown to 5.5 million members from every country on earth, becoming the largest global web movement in history."
Being a global operation, Canadians are able to launch petitions for Canadian interests; Decisions "made in New York?" Not at all.
So where exactly does Soros factor into this debate?
Despite the repeated assertions of the contrary, Avaaz is not a "front group" for Soros, and by all accounts (excluding the unproven claims saturating conservative websites), Soros is, in no way, involved with this organization.
But why let facts get in the way of a good story, eh Levant?
After all, it helps draw attention away from reports of last year's New York lunch date between Prime Minister Harper, Teneycke (driving force behind Sun TV News, who was still Harper's director of communications at the time), News Corp. (parent company of Fox News) chairman Rupert Murdoch, and Fox News president Roger Ailes.
Though they're (now) claiming not to be a Canadian version of Fox News, the ‘journalism' exhibited future Sun TV News host Ezra Levant provides a clear example of what Canadians can expect from Teneycke's tabloid news organization, post ideological purge.
They distort, you comply.
The CRTC wants to hear from the public regarding Sun TV News' application. Make your voice in a single click!
You can also weigh in by signing the Avaaz.org petition.
Two HUGE updates!
First, Kory Teneycke has resigned from Sun Media (QMI) as an RCMP investigation into the spamming of the Avaaz.org petition edges closer to him. (Replacing Teneycke is former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's spokesman, Luc Lavoie -- so it's one Tory insider for another.)
**Note: As of January 2011, Teneycke is back in the saddle at Sun Media (QMI) **
Second, George Soros is threatening to sue Sun Media (QMI) - which includes Levant.
Update - Success! - Saturday September 18, 1:00 am
Sun Media (QMI) and Levant issue a retraction and apology for Levant's column:
On September 5, 2010, a column by Ezra Levant contained false statements about George Soros and his conduct as a young teenager in Nazi-occupied Hungary.
Upon receiving a letter of complaint from Mr. Soros's legal counsel on September 13, 2010, Sun Media Corporation always intended to publish a retraction and apology for this column. Despite constant efforts on both sides, Sun Media and Mr. Soros's counsel were unable to reach agreement on the content of a retraction.
The management of Sun Media wishes to state that there is no basis for the statements in the column and they should not have been made.
Sun Media, this newspaper and Ezra Levant retract the statements made in the column and unreservedly apologize to Mr. Soros for the distress and harm this column may have caused to him.